"How many prospecting calls did you make last week?" That's the first thing my sales manager asked me every single Monday morning. I dreaded those meetings because they put me in a no-win position.
I hated to lie, but if I told the truth I'd get in big trouble. My numbers were significantly and consistently below the revered corporate standards, which were established to help us be more successful.
Behind these expectations was the pervasive belief that the more calls you make, the more sales you'll get. Selling was simply a numbers game and I was clearly failing to do my job.
Yet, month after month, despite my abysmal prospecting statistics, I outperformed and outsold my colleagues. This paradox confounded me. My manager was stymied as well since it went against everything he'd been taught. But he didn't stop too long to examine what was happening. Instead, he would push me out the door to make more calls.
As I examined the situation I went back to some of the sales books that I had found, in the past had given me some solid sales definitions and focus; in particular Neil Rackham’s books – I remembered one that was excellent in zeroing in on what we need to be rainmakers.
So off I went to my bookcases to find that book – thank goodness Rethinking The Sales Force was indeed still there – as I went through it I had a feeling of being acknowledged for what I’d been doing and, in fact, remembered that based on my behaviors and basic instinct Rackham would define me as a business development professional, not a “sales person” – in fact there is a difference.
Business development professionals develop deep, enduring, working relationships with their clients, not always focused on “selling” something to them but rather focused on developing a reliable connection.
I was reminded of two of my clients I introduced to each other. I knew they were both using a vendor whom they could negotiate a better price point with if they developed a bit of a co-operative. In the end both corporations were thrilled with the numbers they were able to negotiate and the vendor was ecstatic with the fact that this meant a long-term relationship that only needed singular focus.
Three companies had come out of my actions with very positive feelings about the company I was associated with because, although not really enabled to do so, I felt it was something I should do to help my clients.
They remained two of my largest clients until I chose to leave the company five years later. And their vendor remained indebted to me referring prospective new clients to me as well.
So to be a business development professional takes creativity, strategic thinking, and the development of a high trust level with your clients. Just looking at how many calls you make doesn’t cut it – unfortunately there are still some old time sales managers out there who just don’t get it.